Sitting at the kitchen table, I have a pretty good view of the back yard, which is to the North. A month or so ago, I moved a deer feeder in there, so I could fatten up some squirrels in preparation for Thanksgiving. Since that time, it has become the hub of activity for our slice of the Great American Desert, a reference you might have to look up if you weren’t paying attention in History class.
Shorty after I got the feeder set up, we had birds of all kinds flitting about. Quail, Flickers, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Nuthatches and many others made it a busy place during the day. It has been fun to watch the interaction of the different species as they jockey for food and position. I have observed animals acting fairly indifferent to each other as a rule. Not so with a few of the larger birds. Blue Jays have always been the bully of bird feeders. They show up, squawk loudly, hoover up some corn, and shoot their mouth off some more. If they see somebody else enjoying a quiet moment, they rush over, scattering food everywhere, and are pretty much the reason why we can’t have nice things.
Mr. Flicker, a woodpecker of a sort, is the current bad dude of the feeder. He perches in large Cedar tree next to the feeder and if there is a Blue Jay anywhere around, he will swoop directly at them and suddenly, there is corn flying and Blue Jays hopping and squawking about the infraction. No flags are thrown and Mr Flicker starts to chow down. It looks very reminiscent of a elementary playground. It is also quite satisfying to see the Blue Jays nervously look over their shoulder every few seconds. Avian Karma.
All the other players are zipping in and out, squirrels come in and feed their fat faces and act like nothing else exists as they chew and chew and chew. Our resident flock of Bob White Quail have made this a regular and frequent stop. I have already written up their interaction with the tree rats. They have an interesting protocol they follow when coming to the feeder. So far, they have always come from the ridge behind the house. We have a rock wall they must scramble over, and they come in twos and threes, but always leave someone hanging back, sitting somewhere high, keeping watch for predators and me. These over watch guys only come down to eat after everybody else has gotten their coats and are milling around the front door. (A somewhat obscure reference to Minnesota social customs.) I don’t know if they take turns or somebody got deemed watch boy, but these boys have to eat fast and chew on the run. The whole flock is very aware of any movement and they are gone the moment I creep around the corner of the house. I can’t even get lined up on one and they are over the ridge and out of sight. Frustrating little buggers, but fun to watch.
A typical night at the feeder.
About 2 weeks after putting in the feeder, I noticed one day, when the feeder was running at fire code rated capacity, something else was grubbing around, under foot and it wasn’t a bird or squirrel. Rats. Wood rats. And more than one of them. I got my traps out that very afternoon and ended up catching 11 of them and one big Norway rat, within 2 days. Since that time, nothing in my traps, but I am sure we will be seeing a return sometime soon.
Speaking of traps, I have started getting into trapping, for meat and fur. I watch a lot of YouTube video of how to do things and one night I stumbled on to a guy building a log cabin for his trap line up in Manitoba, Canada. His name is Dave and his YouTube channel is: Trapping World. He is a guy, my age, who single handedly put up a log cabin in a very short time and turned out to be a great story teller. Well, one thing led to another and the next thing you know, I was watching him on his trap line and the wheels started turning in my head. I have hunted all my life and never really considered trapping as an add on to having fun outdoors. You end up getting more meat from trapping than hunting, and if you are serious about surviving the idiocy of our current culture, when it finally implodes, how are you going to keep your family fed? Yes, yes I know, I am one of those crazies that think this merry go round is not going to last forever, and is hell bent on surviving the apocalypse out in the woods somewhere. Well, don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. Just consider me a bit eccentric and we’ll all be friends, until I have to eat you cause you blundered into one of my traps and… well, where was I? Yes, trapping.
I have developed a fascinating new hobby that has already paid off with eliminating rats from our local area. I thought I would expand my horizons a bit and try some old school traps. Dead fall traps have been around for thousands of years. My favorite is the split stick dead fall. 2 sticks, a large rock or log, some carving, a little bait and you got yourself a meal. Or so I thought. I built one and so far, none of the local wild life has been interested in the thing. Ingrates. Fine, I moved on to placing a few traps on our fence line, some place rabbits like to move around in. And promptly caught a skunk. Catching skunks is about as easy as catching cold. It is harder to not catch a skunk than to catch a skunk, and he was a beauty. Since he was caught and still alive, I had to go into my skunk charmer routine. I am a old hand at handling the smelly things. Back in the day, we used to raise pheasants, and skunks love to eat the heads off them guys. So we trapped skunks by the bushel load. I have a picture somewhere, showing me holding a skunk under my arm. The trick is to cover them, especially the tail area, with blanket, coat, or something and just keep their tail down. Simple as that. That particular skunk ended up on our next door neighbor’s front step. Long story.
So, me and skunks go way back. The way this guy was caught, there was not going to be a happy ending. Not like there ever was gonna be one when you’re caught in a trap. We call it dispatching in the trapping world. Sometimes you can dispatch a skunk and he don’t spray. Today was not that day. I had been toying with the idea of skinning him, fleshing the hide and tanning him, the usual things, that is until he dumped his entire load in his pants. The wife told me I would be building a log cabin to live in and never coming in this house again, were I to go with plan A. I declined that opportunity, sadly. There will be other skunks, other cabins.
This late afternoon, I am sitting at the kitchen table, checking Google on how you de-stink Mr. Pepe Le Pew and happen to look up as our Barred owl came swooping down, going for one of the Quail that was at the feeder. These guys have a 4 foot wing span and look like winged death when swooping. I had my game camera out looking at the feeder and he landed right in front of the camera. It was quite awesome to see. This large owl, coming out of the sky and quail blasting off everywhere. He didn’t even come close and sat on the ground looking around, then pouncing on something and eating it, which might have been a bug or something. He had exactly the same luck I’ve had with those dang quail. They don’t sit still for nothin. The owl went back up into the trees, and in the course of the next hour made a half dozen dramatic swoops on birds, squirrels, heck kernels of corn, the way it looked. I got the impression he was hungry and then remembered that the Barred owl’s main food source was rats. Big juicy rats that I had trapped and, um, sorry about that, ole buddy. Could I interest you in a hot dog or something?
I am not sure I want to go outside again for awhile. I was out changing the data card in the camera and Mr I Missed Everything swooped up and perched on a tree branch, right above me. I looked up, he looked down. Did you know owls sort of squint like Clint Eastwood when they are pissed? Ya, I found that out tonight.